Watching Whales in Juneau, Alaska

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En route home from Sitka, I had a 12+ hour layover in Juneau.  I took this opportunity to store my bag at the airport and hop on a whale watching trip with Harv and Marv’s.  I had spotted a few whales here and there on the ferry to Sitka (a group of orcas), a boat trip with Sitka Secrets (a single humpback whale), and the trip back from Tracy Arm (a single pilot whale).  But, these were fleeting sightings, and I wanted to see more.  I wanted that moment we all romanticize about when we think of Alaska, the moment you see the spout of water blown upwards followed by the rise of the whale’s back and then the finale of its tail rising above the water.  The day was a beautiful one, which was a delight to my senses as I had been growing a bit tired of the constant drizzle and rain.  But, I was told that this would decrease our whale sightings, as they tend to come up less when the sun is out.  Our captain Steve, a very knowledgeable and personable guy, told us that he was quite certain that we would still see whales.  With this reassurance, I was in high spirits.  Sun AND whales!  Oh, what a day!

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Leaving Auke Bay

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Passing by rock covered in seals on our way out into the Passage

We set out from Auke Bay, which was lovely as we saw the Mendenhall Glacier behind us as we left the dock and rode out into the Inside Passage.  The Inside Passage is so beautiful with calm waters and backdrops of lush mountains on either side.  Within no time, we were out and spotting humpback whales.  Our captains knew them by name having been working in the business for years and knowing their movements being out on the water with them so frequently.  Each whale has a unique pattern on their tail, which helps the captains identify each one of them.  Although, I was also told that they have fairly distinct personalities as well, but I never picked up on those subtleties!

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Soon, we all got the hang of sighting the humpbacks.  You watch the horizon for the spouts of water.  Then, you yell out to everyone to look in the direction of the spout!  Yes, don’t forget that part.  Next, you wait for it, as usually, you will see the rise of the back and the tail flip out of the water.

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Our guides were great at chasing these lovely creatures, setting us up for great photo shots!  It was much more fun than I had imagined.

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No zoom used here. This one was so close to the boat!

After a bit of this type of fun, the captain got a call from a fishing boat not too far away.  A group of orcas had been spotted!  So, off we went to try to catch an orca sighting.  We made it part way when he received another call.  Another group of orcas, this one closer to our boat and on the way back to the dock.  So, we turned around and joined the other boats that had gathered in the vicinity.

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After a few minutes here watching this group of orcas swimming the coast and then out through the passage, I started to sight a few humpbacks blowing up spouts of water fairly close by.  I was in heaven!  Orcas and humpbacks, sun and blue skies, mountains and calm waters!  Oh what a day!  The trip was 2 hours in length but felt so short; it flew by so quickly.  It was not a cheap trip but was so worth every penny.  No, I did not see humpbacks bubble feeding or orcas feeding on seals, the ultimate moments, but I saw more than enough to be in absolute awe, feeling so privileged to have the opportunity to see such special creatures in their natural habitat.

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